Govt. Must Commit to Uphold the Rule of Law in Sierra Leone

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President Julius Maada Bio
President Julius Maada Bio

By Foday Moriba Conteh

It is evident that the people of Sierra Leone have suffered from unconstitutional abuses and sanctioned violence; Government must understand, in good faith, that the failure to accept legitimate criticism, underscores an unwillingness to make amends and do what is right and needed for a cohesive Sierra Leone. I herein urge, in the wider interest of peace, stability, and national cohesion, the Government to commit to upholding the Rule of Law in Sierra Leone.

The Government of Sierra Leone, under the leadership of His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, should prioritize the human rights of citizens and to work towards political stability in order to form a strong and stable Government that will effectively tackle issues that are currently confronting us as a nation.

Constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, must be upheld and not sacrificed wantonly for political gains. The authorities, especially the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), must facilitate the exercise of those rights in a manner that complies with our 1991 Constitution.  The rule of law and protection of the exercise of human rights are inextricably linked. A commitment to respect the rule of law is a commitment to respect and protect human rights.

It must be noted that Sierra Leone is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 grants the right of peaceful assembly. The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (order public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Section 26(1) of the 1991 Constitution provides that: Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly…

According to Freedom House’s 2019 report on Sierra Leone: While freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, the Sierra Leone Police have repeatedly refused to grant permission to organizers planning protests, and violently cracked down on a number of peaceful demonstrations in recent years. These actions have witnessed an unprecedented and dramatic decline in the country’s democratic, peace and human rights credentials.

The rule of law also includes democratic reforms.  Principles of legality, equality, accountability, and transparency similarly apply to Parliamentary procedures and practices.  Respect for citizens requires respect for the citizen’s representatives in Parliament.  Voices of the minority and views of the Opposition must be accorded their rightful place in the halls of democracy and corridors of power.

My hope for Sierra Leone is the same as those of Sierra Leoneans for the nation to heal from political crisis, rebuild confidence in our political system, recover economic growth and for the shared and inclusive prosperity for all.

I am very much concern on issues bordering on constitutionality, legality and serial procedural breaches by the Government and having serious aftermaths on the health of the country’s democracy and has shabby the trust and confidence that citizens had in the operability and independence of key institutions of State like the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) which many has alleged that they do not have the independence to serve Sierra Leone and its existential threat to democratic good governance, peace and national cohesion.

As citizens we concern that the Sierra Leone Police Force have become willing partners in eroding the fundamental human rights of citizens, and they have formed a conveyor belt of human rights abuses where they continue to intimidate, unlawful arrests and detention of citizens and opposition members, many times on alleged legal violations. As a Sierra Leonean we need to commit ourselves to harness my collective strength to defend our country’s democracy, oppose, and discard all violations of the Rule of Law and of the rights of citizens of Sierra Leone.

I want to conclude by reaffirming my commitment to work with Government, institutions, and political parties, to uphold democracy and the rule of law, and to tirelessly protect and defend the fundamental freedoms and rights of the people of Sierra Leone.

At a time like this, I want to urge the Government of Sierra Leone to commit itself to uphold the Rule of Law in Sierra Leone, and to engage opposition parties in honest and productive dialogue which is very crucial as the country’s is gearing up for the next general elections in 2023.

 

 

 

 

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